Find out how to get a Midwest Emo guitar tone in our guide to the best guitars, amps, pedals, and tunings for playing and writing emo guitar parts

If you’ve been wondering how to replicate the shimmering arpeggios and twinkling leads of your favourite Midwest Emo bands then we’re here to help.

In this guide we’ll take a closer look at our favourite guitar, amp, and pedal picks for getting a Midwest-influenced sound, as well as exploring a few alternate tunings that will help to shed some light on how to write Midwest Emo songs.

Keep reading to get to grips with the inception and background of this often misunderstood genre, then check out some of the best bits of gear that can help you to get the Midwest Emo guitar sound.

What is Midwest Emo?

Midwest Emo refers to a genre of music that developed from hardcore and post-hardcore movements in the Midwestern states of the USA. It’s perhaps best known for utilising complex guitar parts and song structures, sometimes employing tapping techniques and unorthodox rhythms.

If you’re looking to make your guitar set-up a little more suited to playing and writing Midwest emo, then our guide will help you to understand why certain bits of gear are better-suited than others. There are no strict rules, though - so even if you don’t have access to some of this gear, you can try out a few new tunings and learn some valuable emo guitar techniques.

How to Get Midwest Emo Tone

There are certain guitars, amps, and pedals that make playing Midwestern-inspired music a little bit easier, in addition to some guitar tunings that can help when writing your own songs.

Midwest Emo Guitars

Although it’s not an absolute requirement, using a guitar that is equipped with single coil pickups will make getting a Midwest Emo guitar tone a little easier for most people. These pickups offer more clarity when playing arpeggios and will give you a jangly tone for rhythm sections.

With that being said, many bands have succeeded using a range of P90s and humbuckers on guitars such as Gibson Les Pauls, so experiment with some different options.

Fender Player Plus Telecaster

Our top pick for Midwest Emo guitars are Telecasters.

Fender Tele’s are renowned for their versatility, and they’re infinitely playable which can make using some different tunings and chords a bit simpler. Use the bridge pickup for lead sections, especially if you’re playing complex parts.

There are other great options from the likes of G&L (favoured by Algernon Cadwallader), Squier, and Charvel - check them all out below:

Midwest Emo Amps

Fender Tonemaster Deluxe Reverb

Amps that have a solid, chiming clean tone work best for this genre - if your clean tone is good then it’s hard to go wrong when you start to add extra pedals into the mix.

There are no hard rules when it comes to Midwest emo amp settings as it will likely depend on your exact amp model and which guitar you pair it with, but if you push the mid and treble frequencies you’re likely able to cut through a mix better.

Some solid amp recommendations come from the likes of Fender and Vox - take a closer look at their selection of combos, heads, and cabs here:

Vox AC15C1

Midwest Emo Guitar Pedals

Once again, there is no strict ‘Midwest Emo pedalboard’ here, but we’ve rounded up some of the most common Midwest Emo effects that can go a long way when searching for that particular sound.

Compressor Pedals

BOSS CS3 Compression Sustainer

Compressor pedals alter the dynamics of your guitar tone. They’re great for ironing out the peaks and troughs in volume that can occur when playing arpeggios, tapping sections, and legato lead lines.

They also add a sparkle to your clean tone and can be turned-up into a wonderfully gritty driven sound if needed. They’re one of the key components of the Midwest Emo guitar sound, particularly when playing live!

Boost & Overdrive Pedals

Earthquaker Devices Plumes Small Signal Shredder
Mooer Mod1 Green Mile Overdrive

If you need a little extra-boost on top of your compressed signal, then a solid Overdrive stompbox should do the trick. You can opt for a pedal that simply increases the volume without colouring the tone too much, or you can set them up for a slight gain increase and some extra-distortion.

Delay & Reverb Pedals

Strymon Big Sky
Mooer MRV1 Shim Verb

Sometimes you might need to add a little bit of space to your guitar sound - and this is where Delay and Reverb pedals are incredibly useful!

You don’t need to do anything too fancy with these pedals when aiming for a standard Midwest tone - and some amps will have built-in reverbs that offer more than enough flexibility - but you can check the full range at PMT out here:

Chorus Pedals

BOSS CE2W Waza Craft Chorus
EHX Nano Clone Chorus

In certain scenarios you might also wish to add some modulation to your tone. Lots of awesome lead lines, bridge sections, and guitar solos can be spiced up with a slight doubling effect that is achieved with a Chorus pedal.

Shop our favourite Chorus pedals here:

Want to learn more about playing different genres of music on guitar? Need help learning to tap or with other guitar techniques? Call us on 0151 448 2089 or check out your local store to speak to one of our Experts about your needs.